Chopes performance shows what the surfing world has missed
For a long time the Australian surf press, myself included, have glossed over his career and derided his achievements. By focusing on his style, or lack thereof, and his manner of winning, he’s never been given the treatment he deserves. His sometimes overzealous approach of doing whatever it takes to win was seen as unsportsmanlike. Of course, if he was Australian, that same trait would have been celebrated as an example of classic Aussie mongrel.
It’s hard to not think initially this was plain anti-Brazilian bias. ADS came well before the likes of Medina, Toledo, Ferreira, and Dora elevated Brazilian surfing to its current dominance. For half a decade prior to Medina’s appearance, Adriano plowed a solitary furrow as the only Brazo who ever came close to challenging Slater, Andy, Fanning, Parko and Taj. He was never really considered part of that cool gang, despite results that often mirrored theirs.
Even after a decade of sustained excellence and unwavering commitment landed him his World Title in 2015, many non-Brazilians were either dismissive or, worse, underwhelmed. That ignores the fact that winning a World Title is the hardest thing any professional surfer can do. Parko has one. Jordy, Julian and Taj have none.
It didn’t help that the very next day after Adriano had claimed his World Title, Kelly Slater decided to drop the first-ever footage of the Surf Ranch. If de Souza was already struggling for air-time, Slater then sucked out whatever oxygen was left in the tank. Never had a World Title looked so old, so quick.
So four years later, when Adriano missed the first four events of this year’s CT he wasn’t exactly missed. Surfing likes shiny new toys and ADS was like Woody in Toy Story 4, discarded at the bottom of the box. Meanwhile, laser-shooting, wifi-enabled, BlueTooth-activated weapons like Toledo, Ferreira, Moniz and Florence became the new playthings of surf fans.
The only thing shiny about Adriano on his return, however, was his new teeth. He'd clearly used his injury recuperation time to invest in a new set of laughing gear. He returned in Rio with a ring of confidence that required welding goggles just to look at.
However, it was when Teahupoo came alive two days ago that, finally, surfing has seen what it’s been missing. In many ways it should be unsurprising it was at Chopes where ADS reasserted himself. His career has been defined by working on any weakness in his surfing. Early on in his career, he highlighted this wave as a place where he would stake his reputation.
I once saw him go to head-to-head with Dustin Barca, then a CT surfer, since a MMA fighter and Hawaiian activist, in both a freesurf and competitive exchange. He wouldn’t back down on land or in the water. Nothing would get in the way of his determination to get to grips with a wave that, more than any other, proves what type of surfer you are.
Few have also done more time in the water in and around the competition than Adriano and he quickly became one of a handful of CT surfers truly comfortable at the wave whenever it became serious. So yesterday, in probably the heaviest conditions the comp has seen since 2014 (where he made the Quarters), ADS yet again hucked himself over the edge and dragged his underrated arse through some of the heaviest waves of the day.
Now sure he didn’t make it past the quarters, and the heroics of Wright, Medina, Moniz et all will, rightly, claim the headlines, but de Souza’s performances this week were a testament to a surfer who has battled his way to the very top and seems determined to stay there. I for one hope he does.